A super dynamic and progressive Visioning Workshop hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs

by Katherine Fillmore 

Under a crystal chandelier at the Manhattan Hotel in Pretoria I partook in a brainstorming initiative to co-create a new national state of the environment information provision system that takes full advantage of the opportunities presented by the Information Age.

The presentations were entertaining and informative with Mr Adrian Theba from Microsoft showing how modern computing power adds value to the state of environment reporting. Microsoft is doing great work helping protect the rhino.

Workshop facilitator Mr Peter Lukey, the department’s senior manager responsible for knowledge and information management, illustrated the power we have as individuals with a phone in our hand to report on the state of the environment and get the information to the right channels who can take action. We have witnessed the effectiveness of this by sending photos and a location pin of open and burst manholes to our Ward Councillor Gert Visser who immediately can send a task team to repair it.

We need more citizens on the ground aware of environmental issues and how they can disseminate this information to the decision makers.The South African public needs to embrace the importance of the environment and become aware of how environmental issues affect them directly.

Technology can be used as the central nervous system of the environment reaching out to the right people! Through technology you can do something good for someone else. This leverages citizen scientists to contribute towards the formulation of the conservation policy. Most of us have access to a cell phone! The power lies in our hands. 

In a breakaway discussion group I hosted a small group conversation on how we can use social media to link civil society to environmental affairs. I used the Facebook page Heal the Hennops River as an example. There was great input from the members that joined the group with strong participation from scholars guiding me on how to reach and educate our youth through social media. They shed light on South African celebrity - who has millions of followers - Somizi Mhlongo. If we have an environmental ambassador that is a celebrity posting environmental issues on Instagram this would attract a strong youthful following and activate environmental healing. I woke up early this am and sent him a message on Instagram. Fingers crossed! 

The connectivity and education was uplifting and I wish I could return today but have committed to attend an Annual Water Stewardship Event in Johannesburg. 

Peter Lukey said that we have become so fearful of invoking panic about our environment that a level of complacency has arisen. The time has come to be active environmental citizens! Take those photos! Send locations! Let the decision makers know! 

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